by Janice Marie Ferguson
One of the first things we have to get situated for the GORUCK Challenge, or any other endurance event of this type, for that matter, is the pack each of us will carry. The options are endless. It gets confusing to have so many choices. Especially if you’ve never had a need for something like this before. However, I’ve been doing research over these past few weeks to help simplify this task for all of us.
Three things I’ve learned in the process:
1. You do not want to wait until the last minute to find a pack for your event. You must start training with it early on.
2. As with any piece of equipment for any endeavor, you’ll have to find what works best for you on multiple levels: comfort, size, price, durability, features, and a host of other variables.
3. Usually price is the biggest barrier to overcome. And these bags are not cheap. Especially the better ones. But, I’ve learned quickly that if your #1 priority is to stay away from the higher price or cost of the higher quality bags, you MUST be willing to sacrifice in the areas of durability, features, and comfort.
Pack Options and Research
1. Osprey Packs
Some of my Endurance Society, Death Race-type friends have suggested the Osprey brand of hiking back packs for my May Sisu Iron 30-hour Challenge AND for our upcoming July Bandit CrossFit Custom GORUCK Challenge.
Quick detour on these two events:
1. There’s still some spots open for the California Sisu Iron in May, in case you wanted to try it! Check it out here:
2. There’s also some spots open for our Bandit CrossFit custom GORUCK Challenge in July! It’s open to anyone who wants to participate. Just email janicemarie @ banditcrossfit.com and I can give you the details. Check it out here:
While the two events are fairly similar in nature, and in gear needs, they are actually completely different types of events. The Sisu Iron is more of an individual event. There are cutoffs and “winners,” in a sense. There will be a very low finisher rate out of the 200+ that signed up.
The GORUCK Challenge is a team event. It’s not a race. And the goal is for everyone to finish. We’ve got about 50 signed up right now. The average pass rate advertised on the GORUCK site is 94%. My goal is for our challenge to have a 100% pass rate!
I’m excited to experience both of these events this year, and ready to learn more about myself and the people around me through both events.
Now, back to the Osprey packs…
I just purchased an Osprey Aura 50L model (on sale for $150, regular price $250 and up). My intent is to use this pack for both the Sisu Iron and the GORUCK Challenge.
See this review for the Aura:
The male version if the Aura is called the Atmos (also on sale on Amazon). As for the Aura, I got a size small, and capacity of 50L. They have several capacities in this model. The Aura is designed for women, and it is very comfortable. It also has a lot of features that will make it very handy to work with. Sisu Iron organizer, Daren de Heras, who is also a Death Race, Fuego Y Agua Survival Run, and endurance race extraordinaire, suggested the Osprey Ariel (Aether for men). Just to be sure, since there are so many models and sizes, I called and talked to an Osprey customer service representative. I told him what I wanted to do with the pack, and he recommended the Aura 50 (Atmos for men) or the Sirrus 50 (Stratos for men.) He mentioned the Ariel may be too big (in capacity) for what I need. He also mentioned that the Sirrus and Aura were better suited for carry-on bins in airplanes. I’m sure, in the end, it is a personal preference. I’m looking for smaller, as I hope to pack light for the trip AND for the events. More stuff=more weight. More weight=more pain. Something I’ve learned from my friends who do these events is that first-timers always bring more than they need ,and then end up having to haul all that extra weight around for nothing.
Extra notes and tips on Osprey and the Aura:
Color Warning! The green Aura is more of a dull olive than the vibrant green pictured on the Web site. I was a little bit disappointed with it, and considered exchanging it, but they were already out of the $150 purple in small. So, I’m stuck with it, unless I want to pay an additional $70, or more, to get the purple. As for the purple color, Amazon reviewers say the purple is more maroon, and that the picture is bit misleading with the bright purple image. A couple of Amazon reviewers posted pics of the actual pack, and it is definitely much more maroon/burgundy and pinkish–even more so than what appears on the review video above. You can search for these pictures in the reviews.
Osprey packs are designed for extended wear, with a lightweight frame, that moves the weight from your shoulders to your waist. The material is rip-stop Nylon. They are designed to last you a lifetime, and have a warranty on the workmanship for a lifetime. The frame has a one-year warranty.
If you think you may want to try one of these, you should try to order on Amazon pretty soon. They are running out of them at this price. Full price they are $210, and up to more than $250 in other places I’ve seen.
2. Tactical Ruck Sacks:
You can find these locally at Leon’s Army Navy Surplus Store in Orange Grove, Miss., and on the Gulfport Seabee base in the Exchange, if you can get in there. You may be able to find them at Keesler Air Force base, in Biloxi, too.
I’ve been rucking with my black Fox Tactical Medium Transport Pack that I got from Leon’s Army Navy for $50. (I’m wearing it in the picture above.) It has a lot of pockets and compartments, a hydration bladder compartment, waist belt, and molle to hang accesories from. But, as for comfort, it really starts to wear down your shoulders after the first 15 minutes.
Tip: The guy who helped me buy this pack at Leon’s told me that once I got the top harness straps adjusted for my size, I should sow them down to each other to secure them, as they tend to slip through the adjustable ring as the pack gets heavier.
I bought my husband one of the Voodoo Tactical Three Day Assault Packs, from Leon’s, for about $90. This pack is bigger, and probably isn’t suited for a small-framed person. But, it has pockets, compartments, a waist belt, molle, and other features similar to the Fox Tactical pack that I have. He told me to sow the extra strap on the top down on these bags, too.
Other tactical pack options I’ve seen:
Some folks in the Death Race/Endurance Society/SISU crowd also like the 5.11 Rush molle tactical bags. There’s several options on their Web site: www.511tactical.com. I’m not sure about how comfortable these are as I’ve never tried them.
The GORUCK company also offers ruck sacks: GR1 ($285) and GR2 ($345). The major difference between the two are the sizes. GR1, from what I understand, is smaller than the GR2. But, they still have similar features. The links I posted with both the GR1 and the GR2 have helpful video tutorials of all the features of the two bags.
Tips: When we get our down payment in for our challenge, we will get a 10% discount for the bags. Also, if you’d like to see one, one of our Bandits, Dale Meitzler, has the GR1. I’m sure he would bring it for you to try on if you ask.
Final notes and observations:
The difference in wearing the two packs I bought (Osprey Aura and Fox Tactical) is pretty signifcant in the comfort department. I’ll be rucking with the Osprey this weekend for the first time to try it with a load. But, I can already tell, without any weight, that the Osprey is going to be much more comfortable than my Fox Tactical pack.
Post-publish edit: After I published this article, one of the experienced GORUCK people who is traveling to our event, Joey Hamner, suggested that the 50L Osprey Aura could be too much for someone. While, I will need more room for the SISU Iron, so the 50L will work nicely for that event, and I can use the compression straps to keep it small for the GORUCK, someone else may not need all the extra space in the 50L. The Osprey Sirrus (Stratus for men) may be a good option for someone looking for a smaller bag, but who is also looking for the comfort of an air suspension pack. These packs are also on sale on Amazon for $120 for the 24L and $150 and up for the 36L.
Check out the Sirrus/Stratus 24L demo video:
However, one of the cheaper military ruck sacks will certainly get you by. They should absolutely withstand the abuse of the GORUCK. There’s many other brands of these packs and many other places you can get them. You may even be able to find a used one on Ebay, Craigslist, or even by posting your search for one in the OCR Gear Swap Facebook group.
Don’t feel pressure to spend a bunch of money on something you will only use once. Humans are pretty resilient–especially someone who’s willing to sign up for something like this. Just remember, the pain of these events, and little minor details like pack discomfort are transitory parts of the experience. The memory and sense of accomplishment you will achieve after you finish…that feeling will last you a lifetime. Don’t let the fear or procrastination of finding a pack stop you from earning that lasting glory.
Always remember: Pain is Inevitable. Suffering is Optional.